Stores bank on Black Friday kick-starting retail rush

What began as a U.S. phenomenon has become Canada’s biggest shopping extravaganza

London Drugs store manager David Woogman has watched during the past five years as Black Friday has become a bigger sales promotion than Boxing Day | Rob Kruyt

Canadian retailers are enjoying some of the biggest-volume days for sales all year, as Black Friday week kicks off what is expected to be a banner 2018 holiday shopping season.

The shopping event characterized by huge discounts on a wide array of products started as an American phenomenon linked to the U.S. Thanksgiving long weekend but has steadily become a Canadian retail sensation that some say is now bigger than Boxing Day sales.

Moneris data showed there were 52% more sales during Black Friday week in Canada last year than during the week preceding the big blowout retail promotion.

“Black Friday has overtaken Boxing Day,” said David Woogman, who manages the London Drugs store on West Broadway near Cambie Street, and has been at the store for nine of his 38 years with the company.

“Most people in Canada are working on the Friday, so it becomes even more of an online event here. We’re going to be very big online, and we’re going to be very big in store. That’s why Black Friday goes beyond the single day and through the entire week.”

Moneris statistics show that annual spending growth Canada-wide during Black Friday promotions has slowed considerably during the past five years. The biggest jump for sales came in 2013, when Canadians spent 19.2% more on Black Friday purchases than they had the year before.

In 2015, sales growth for Black Friday purchases was 9.6% compared with the previous year’s totals. Last year, Black Friday sales countrywide were 4.5% more than in the year before, according to Moneris.

Woogman said that while Black Friday sales growth at his store last year was not as robust as the previous year, the previous four years’ sales growth during the promotion was far above what Moneris pegged as the Canadian average.

London Drugs promotions, such as discounts of up to 80%, are what drives sales, he said.

According to retailers Retail Insider Media owner Craig Patterson has talked with, consumers are likely to see bigger discounts and more retailer promotions this year than in recent years regardless of how they shop during Black Friday week or later in the holiday season, he said.

Once Black Friday sales end, Patterson said, it is likely that retailers will launch different promotions to try to keep customers from shopping elsewhere.

The result of the variety of promotions during the holiday shopping period could be sales growth of more than 10% compared with last year’s sales, Patterson said.

For the season as a whole, Canadians are expected to spend about 3.7% more than they did last year, according to PwC’s 2018 Canadian holiday outlook.

The global consulting firm surveyed Canadians and found that the average consumer intended to spend $1,563 this year.

About 58% of those surveyed intended to spend about the same as they did last year, while 25% expected to spend more, 13% expected to spend less and 4% were not sure.

What seems at odds with Canadians’ intention to spend more this holiday season is lower economic confidence among consumers, according to PwC.

While about 46% of those surveyed said that they believed the economy will be about the same for the next six months, 31% thought that the economy will do worse and only 16% thought that the economy would do better. About 8% were not sure.

Those who think that the economy will improve during the next six months said they are likely to spend more this holiday season.

About 28% of those surveyed said that the shift toward global trade protectionism might affect how much they will spend this holiday season.